Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) is in the middle of controversy after announcing that they are planning to drop HTML5’s H.264 in the Google Chrome browser. They are going to push their own WebM video codec through Flash-like plugins for Internet Explorer and Apple Safari. Google does not want to incur external licensing fees for H.264.
According to Mike Jazayeri, a product manager at Google, the groups involved in defining HTML5 video “are at an impasse. There is no agreement on which video codec should be the baseline standard.”
Several years ago Mozilla started pushing Ogg Theora as the base for HTML5 video. But Apple and Nokia opposed Theora since their mobile devices were already relying on H.264. Mozilla had rejected H.264 because it would require them to pay royalty fees. The definers of HTML5 decided to have the market choose the baseline.
Google Chrome, Apple Safari, and Microsoft Internet Explorer did not have a problem paying with the H.264 license fees. But Mozilla Firefox decided to keep supporting Ogg Theora since H.264 would require licensing fees.
Since a majority of Firefox users are either running Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows, both of which already supply licensed code for H.264 video playback, the only users affected are Linux users. Linux users are an insignificant demographic for this issue.